Google may release a foldable Pixel phone in 2021, according to leaked documents.
The search giant will also manufacturer a Pixel 5a - codename barbette - and at least two other first-party devices which have the codenames “raven,” “oriole,” and “passport.”
According to 9to5Google, which has reportedly seen the documents, speculate that “raven” and “oriole” could be Pixel 6 models. “Passport” is explicitly referred to as a “foldable” device.
A report from 2019 indicated that the company had been prototyping foldable devices since the Pixel 3, but that Google was not in a rush to make it to market.
“We're definitely prototyping the technology. We've been doing it for a long time,” said Mario Queiroz, who lead development of Pixel phones, but added that he did not see “a clear use case yet.”
“I think it needs to be more innovative” he said, explaining that he did not believe an expanding screen is enough of a benefit to push consumers to buy the expensive devices.
“The use case is going to need to be something where you go, 'Hey, I definitely need to have this.' Right now, you don't need to have a foldable. It's kind of a 'nice-to-have.'”
According to the leaked document, that view has changed. All three products are planned to launch in the last quarter of 2021 - October, November, and December.
The veracity of the document is reinforced by the fact that the 5G version of the Google Pixel 4a, and the upcoming Pixel 5, are slated for “October”, which matches up with Google’s announcement that both phones would be coming in the autumn.
However one smartphone, a cancelled Pixel 2 XL device codenamed “muskie”, is referenced in the document. This indicates that not every product mentioned in the leak will necessarily come to market.
Google’s foldable device, if it does launch at the end of 2021, will have some refined competition compared to the foldables currently available.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Motorola Razr had hardware problems on launch – infamously breaking in the hands of reviewers – Samsung has recently announced the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Microsoft is seemingly priming for the launch of its Surface Duo, another foldable Android device.